Detroit has the seventh-best points percentage in the league and find themselves at the bottom of the Central Division Standings. Tonight, they face the Nashville Predators, who lead the Central with two more points in one more game played. The Preds are coming off their first regulation loss of the season after playing St. Louis tight for much of Thursday night. Let's take a look at the storylines heading into tonight:
Osgood back in net tonight: Howard didn't practice yesterday, still suffering from back spasms. Babcock hopes to have the starter back in for Wednesday. Until then, let's hope we get 2nd and 3rd-period Osgood from Thursday instead of 1st Period Ozzie.
No word from the league on Tootoo: The NHL's smallest big hitter was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging Carlo Colaiacovo on Thursday night in what originally looked like a blind-side head shot. The league's Friday silence means he's not going to be suspended. The more I look at replay, the more I think it was a legal hit. Tootoo stopped skating in the faceoff circle and made a Kronwallian jump through contact instead of into it. He absolutely did blindside the Blue, but made contact shoulder-to-shoulder. Just one more reason for the Wings' skaters to keep their heads up tonight.
Justin Abdelkader will play tonight: Mike Babcock has so far refused to reveal which player he will replace in the lineup, but he practiced with the third line forwards yesterday. Personally, I think it should be Modano, but probably will be Hudler. I don't think anybody on the fourth line deserves to sit, since that line has done well in their role and all three forwards there have done an excellent job killing penalties this season. [Update 12:05 PM: Ansar Khan comes through with the news. Hudler is the scratch tonight.]
Remember, game's at 7:00
On The Forecheck is your SB Nation blog covering the Predators: Their preview has a guess that Tootoo will be a healthy scratch anyway, as well as stating that Goc, Lombardi, and Suter will be unable to play. I did like how they cherry-picked quotes from the Coyotes' game recap and the CSSI analysis to off-handedly comment about cliches before almost immediately transitioning into a "Detroit is old" statement.
More after the jump:
Penalty minutes per game is about even: Nashville takes half a minute per game more on average, but both teams are top-ten as far as fewest minutes taken.
The Predators kill 81.8% of penalties: good for only 23rd best in the league. Their road PK has killed 7 of 8 total penalties for a 87.5% rate though.
Nasvhille's power play is churning out a paltry 14.7%: Interestingly, they're not only one of the least penalized teams, but apparently their opposition is as well. Nashville has more power play opportunities than only three other teams in the league (PHX, FLA, BOS). Detroit has four more PP opportunities on the short season, in one less game.
How does Detroit stack up? On paper, the special teams matchup looks favorable. Detroit's PP percentage is only 18.4, but they've scored in eight consecutive games. The penalty kill allowed one against Phoenix on Thursday, but remains working at over 90% efficiency.
Key match-up to watch when Nashville has the puck: If On the Forecheck is to be believed with their projected lines, the Predators' fourth line will be Kostitsyn-Spaling-Klasen. Klasen is an exciting young kid who could help provide some much-needed spark to the Predators and Kostitsyn is a dangerous winger. Our bottom line/bottom pair is going to have their hands full dealing with them tonight.
Key match-up to watch when Detroit has the puck: Despite a (relatively) quiet game Thursday, I'm looking for the second line of Franzen-Bertuzzi-Filppula. Nashville's defense is hurting right now and big bodies Franzen and Bertuzzi will have the opportunity to make Kevinn Klein look like...well... like Pavel Datsyuk made Kevin Klein look last season.
Five reasons to hate the Nashville Predators:
- The whistles: It's bad enough Tootoo runs all over the ice trying to hurt people, but when you add in those stupid whistles in Nashville whenever he's on the ice, you've got a recipe for suck.
- They're tough to play against: I consider Barry Trotz one of the top five coaches in the league. Despite the financial constraints which have kept the team from spending more on talent, he gets the most out of his team consistently.
- Tennessee's stupid professional athlete luxury tax: Yes, 17 other states charge pro athletes to play in some manner or another, but Tennessee's tax is the worst. Drew Miller has to pay the state for the privilege of playing there three times a season.
Tim McGraw goal celebration song: It's not that it's a country song or some stupid crap about a reminder that they have hockey in a non-traditional market (hey, if it works, then great for everybody), it's that they play that song after EVERY. SINGLE. GOAL. It's the same reason I'd like to punch The Fratellis.
- Marty Erat: He seems to have mixed up the quote about speaking softly and carrying a big stick, because Erat uses the shortest stick in the league and once called Henrik Zetterberg overrated and overpaid. Enjoy life on the third-tier Marty, the Conn Smythe winner can't hear you amongst the commoners.